16 May, 2009

Paintings still have the power to shock

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

The impact the Manic Street Preachers album cover has made raises the interesting possibility that hand-made, painterly images now have more power to shock than conceptual artworks

It’s not exactly Smell the Glove, is it? In the world’s greatest rockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap, the fictional heavy-metal band’s woes deepen when supermarkets refuse to display the sleeve of their latest album with its offensively sexist imagery. Instead, it is sold in a plain black sleeve, just as Manic Street Preachers’ new album is now to be displayed by British supermarkets in a plain slipcase.

But there the comparisons end. It’s hard to imagine the chain of decisions that led to Jenny Saville’s painting of a boy’s face in colours that vary from olive green to reddish brown, blue and black, being judged too offensive to go on public view. The painting can apparently be interpreted to show blood on the boy’s face – although as the band rightly point out, this is a subjective view. He might have crimson scars and battered lips; or these might just be the colours Saville has used to evoke the appearance of flesh. The whites and creams, the blues of his eyes, are just as shocking.

Saville’s fans – who evidently include the Manics as this is the second time they’ve used her work – see her as this century’s Lucian Freud. Be that as it may, the impact this picture has made raises the interesting possibility that hand-made, painterly images now have more power to shock than conceptual artworks. Everyone is used to seeing dead sharks. The point about photographic art is that it’s quite simple, really, whereas a painting can raise all kinds of troubling ambiguities.

For me this is a painting of psychic hurt, a portrait of pain. In that sense it is truly troubling – but to see it crudely as an image of a child who has been hit (which must be the supermarkets’ view) is to impose your own subjective interpretation. Paint creates uncertainty. It is genuinely impossible to know if those red marks are bloody scars or expressive smears. In the end, what has caused offence is the intrusion of emotion and artistic depth into the temples of commercial banality.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Read the original post on Guardian Arts & Architecture

No Responses to "Paintings still have the power to shock"

Comment Form


Flickr PhotoStream

    Fairy of the middle of Winter/ Яварь Середина-Зимыnozzle head trioLars MikkelsenCountry house and waterfalls - The majolica cloister of Santa Chiara in Naples (years 1739-1742) - Architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro - Painters Giuseppe and Donato MassaCyborg Dude with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro & iPadKnock Out Game175. The Carlyle Hotel, South BeachPájaro N°3Quasi PrimaveraFfunny FfriendsCatch!American DreamA Blessing


HaggBridge.com brings you a daily update of news from art world, focused on UK based artists, exhibitions, and galleries.